Centrica Posts £1 Million In Profits - To Consumers Anger

British Gas owner Centrica has posted half-year profits of almost £1 billion - much to the anger of consumer groups.

Centrica maintain that it has been "absolutely necessary" to raise household gas prices as profits were down 20% in the first six months of this year to £992 million - down from £1.23 billion in 2007.

The firm has instead blamed higher wholesale gas prices on household gas price hikes.

On Wednesday, British Gas raised gas tariffs by 35% and electricity by 9%.

Chief Executive of Centrica, Sam Laidlaw, said: "We produced a good set of results in tough market conditions and against a record first of 2008 and beyond we will continue to concentrate on improving customer service in British Gas, driving inefficiencies out of our entire business, moving in a disciplined manner towards a greater level of vertical integration and pursuing value-adding growth opportunities in all of our business."

British Gas Managing Director, Phil Bentley, told the BBC that "the price of gas this winter, even though it's fallen a little bit, it's still double what was last year".

MP's have warned that higher energy prices will have "serious consequences" for millions of households.

Following Centrica's results, a group of council leaders have said energy suppliers should be charged an annual £500m 'windfall' fee to help beat fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions.

Campaigns Director for Energywatch, Adam Scorer, said householders would be "staggered at the rude health of Centrica's half year profits".

"Obviously, almost a billion pounds of profit in six months isn't the sort of profit Centrica wanted so it has raised gas prices by 35%. Consumers would love to be able to affect their bottom line so easily.

"The bottom line for consumers makes for very grim reading. The £1,000 a year energy bill ceiling is well and truly breached.

"Numbers in fuel poverty will explode this year. Households have some hard decision to make about stretched budgets."

Mr Scorer added that "if the era of cheap energy is over, then the era of cheap solutions to fuel poverty is over as well. Government will fail to meet its fuel poverty target for 2010."

Britain's other energy suppliers are expected to follow suit due to sky rocketing raw fuel costs.

Citigroup analyst Peter Atherton said he expected "all UK retail energy suppliers to announce retail tariff increases of around 25% before the end of September".

Centrica share prices currently stand at 312.25 pence.

Meanwhile, Uswitch.com, an impartial online switching service, is offering consumers a saving £325 a year if they join them.


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